11 July 2014

Backpack Whack Jack More Fear and Loathing on Public Transportation

Tiny Asian woman whacked me with her backpack on MUNI yesterday. Not unusual except I was sitting and she didn’t just graze me, this blow would have felled a rhino. I offered a stern disapproving look after ejaculating an exaggerated “ow!” It was more at the offense than any injury. She offered an apology the repeating of which lessened its effect.

There was an old female junkie on the bus replete with tattoos. Hard to say her age because clearly decades of drug abuse had sucked years out of her. It’s not so much the drugs themselves that does that as the lifestyle the junkie leads. Lack of nutrition and sleep coupled with stress and illness will leave a 30 year old look deep into middle age. The poor lady looked horribly depressed. Maybe she was in recovery — she sure wasn’t high at the time and if she was she had gotten a hold of some really bad stuff. Being in recovery is no guarantee of happiness or contentment or even freedom from depression. Indeed addicts need to get clean then learn to live that way. You take drugs and booze away from a user and you’ve got one fucked up crazy human being who has to learn how to be in the world all over again without the benefit of being a child living at home.

Recovering addicts have to learn to navigate life without that one thing they loved most. That one thing that provided comfort. That one thing that provided joy. That one thing that gave reason and meaning. That one thing that was everything. It’s a confounding way of life which is why so many people relapse. Its much easier not to even try.

I’ve been something of a mess for large swaths of my life but I have managed to — as the saying goes — take care of business. This includes knowing that I needed to get clean and stay that way. The infinitely more difficult part is living an emotionally healthy life and being a positive fellow passenger on planet Earth to those around you. That took me years and I’m still very much a work in progress and fully expect to be until I draw my dying breath.

But I digress….

Today’s MUNI ride featured no vicious blows just the usual bumps and elbowings and kicks and toe steppings. I’ve learned to adjust to riding through Chinatown and among Chinese people. Now the reader should know that I teach at an international school with students from all over the world and I like people equally from all parts of the globe but I do recognize that their different cultures and different norms. I may especially like some peoples and cultures but I am adamant about not disliking any (until such time as I come across a culture of cannibalistic necrophiliacs who bludgeon puppies and slap strangers). So my recognition of the reality of Chinese bus behavior is totally non judgmental. And here is part of the point: I no longer am offended by anything but the most egregious actions like the aforementioned full on backpack battering. I do not shake my head or think evil thoughts. I know the drill. But I’ve also adapted. I return elbow for elbow when getting on or off. I give no quarter and ask none in return. I realize that riding with my Chinese brother and sisters is a full contact sport and I’m just this close to wearing full body armor. You gonna shove me to get off the bus two seconds earlier than me? I’ll shove you back and gain that two seconds. Deal? I’ve yet to draw so much as an angry look from any 88 year old Chinese woman who I’ve jousted with. I may even be earning their respect. They’ve got mine. Just so long as I’m not taking a fully loaded backpack blast to the ribs.

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